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'Pokémon Go' is making some Japanese priests nervous, but this rap song might help

'Pokémon Go' is making some Japanese priests nervous, but this rap song might help
Screenshots from the Japanese version of "Pokémon Go." (Dexter Thomas)

“Pokémon Go” came out Friday in Japan. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on whom you ask.

For more than two weeks, Japanese fans have been watching enviously, and with some concern, reading reports about Pokémon swarms in Santa Monica and Pokémon-related ambush robberies in Missouri.

Perhaps anticipating similar issues, Japan’s National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity has issued a nine-point bulletin aimed at keeping kids safe. “It’s not just Team Rocket,” the bulletin warns, dropping a bit of Pokémon lingo. “There’s lots of trouble out there.”

Some of the warnings mirror standard advice given to kids and technology – “don’t walk and use your phone,” for example.

Then there’s some very Pokémon-specific advice.

One warns kids of being abducted by creepy adults trying to lure them with promises of free Pokémon:

“Be careful of people who use the game as an excuse to try to meet with you. If you must meet with someone, go with an adult. Also, don’t search for Pokémon in places where there aren’t many people. There may be other kinds of monsters.”

The drawing shows an image of a “monster” promising that it will “give you something nice, so how about the two of us meet?”. The child says, “No thank you!"
The drawing shows an image of a “monster” promising that it will “give you something nice, so how about the two of us meet?”. The child says, “No thank you!"

Then there’s a request for kids to make sure parents can find them if their battery runs out – crucial in Japan, where it’s not uncommon for children in first grade to commute to school by themselves.

"Just in case your smartphone battery runs out and you’re not able to make a phone call, carry a prepaid phone card, and learn how to use a public payphone. If you and your friends are going out without an adult, have mom or dad take a full-body picture of you before you leave.”

This advice may be effective for young kids, but hip teenagers may not be swayed by cutesy comics.

That's where a rapper named Sho comes in to fill the gap left by the government.

He turned O.T. Genasis' "Coco," a song about selling crack cocaine, into a “Pokémon Go” safety anthem, filming an impromptu music video to tell his fans to "make sure to look where you're going" while they play the game.

https://twitter.com/sho_aka_stime/status/756364519551533056

But Sho didn’t address the issue of people playing Pokémon at shrines and temples. The Izumo Grand Shrine, one of the oldest and most revered in Japan, has banned the game in or around its grounds.

Users play by walking around with an app open and watching a customized avatar traverse a virtual representation of their actual neighborhood, hence all the walking around.

When a Pokémon is nearby, the player switches to the catching interface that shows the Pokemon superimposed on the real world through the smartphone's camera. Red Pokéballs flung from the bottom of the screen are used to catch the characters.

Pokémon hunters have angered some Japanese by playing at Yasukuni Shrine. Located in Tokyo, the Shinto shrine is a particularly sensitive area as it houses the remains of several Class A war criminals and is often a point of international debate over Japan's responsibility for World War II.

“There are people that are just walking around, fiddling with their phone,” said one man at the shrine, according to Huffington Post Japan. “They don’t even bow at the main shrine or the gate. This is a sacred place. It’s not a place to play games.”

But one temple seems to be taking a lighter approach to the game. The Miyazaki Shrine in Hiroshima City posted an adorable message encouraging Pokémon fans to play respectfully. An image of the message has been retweeted over 10,000 times since it was posted Thursday.

Below is a translation of the full notice:

To all Pokémon trainers

The Pokémon in and around the temple are paying their respects.

Please don't disturb the Pokémon while they are praying, OK?

Let's all pay our respects too, and greet the gods. Once you're done with that, have fun catching Pokémon!

Please mind your manners, and play Pokémon Go in a way that doesn't disturb people attending the temple.

Please don't enter the temple buildings, or go inside the stone barriers. Even if you see a Pokémon inside there, those may not be wild Pokémon, but servants of the gods. Don't try to approach them – instead wait for them to come out.

While in the woods, watch your step and be aware of your surroundings. There may not only be Pokémon, but rhinoceros beetles, stag beetles, and wild tanuki [raccoon dogs].

Also, if you see any rare Pokémon, please tell the shrine priest as well, OK?

Best of luck to the shrine priests in their search for the elusive Mewtwo.

Follow me @dexdigi for more on the intersection of culture and the Internet.

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